Thursday, December 31, 2009

Skywatch Friday - Cool blues

More photos from yet more dog walking pathways (I'm sorry for repeating a theme, but these are the only places I have been this week - see, even the dogs get out to more socially exciting places than me).

This is an off-leash area alongside the Bow River (which is not yet frozen - won't be too long) in Cochrane, Alberta. I won't go into my mini rant at the moment about the frustrating rules and regulations for walking dogs around here.

Suffice to say, this area is awash with every size and breed of canine imaginable, shouting at the top of their woofing lungs "I'm freeeeeee ... "

They then embark on a major exchange of bum-sniffing rituals - as the guys chat up the laydeez, and the boys check out the other boys with their "I'm well hard but I can't stop my tail wagging at you" killer-stare. And the girls just flutter their eyelashes and then squat with girly, gay abandon.

There are many cries of "He's nicked my ball" and "It was my stick first". And of course, in the summer time there are the perpetual whining complaints of "...but he's allowed to go swimming, why can't I?". Occasionally, the bad-boy behaviour erupts and an ear gets nipped, or a set of teeth are accused of gnashing a bit too hard.

And maybe (I can't say too much) - a dog sitting not too far from me right now, might rise up and place two distinct filthy muddy paw-prints on the back of a middle-aged woman's new white coat, but shhhh, I didn't say anything ....

But in an air of dog-loving entente cordiale, everyone rubs along pretty well.

But this is a quite lovely, peaceful, pretty and liberating (for the dogs) place to wander in the summer or winter time. Sometimes even the dog-owners stop and exchange pleasantries - but I draw a line at sniffing their bums too.

There is a campsite alongside the river here. Perhaps more enticing in the summer when it is not a frozen winterland when, I suspect, you would probably have to insulate the pipes on your huge RV with more layers than someone on a polar expedition.

And look at those skies. That photo is not enhanced - that really is the colour of the sky - and if you look carefully you can see a little splotch of a moon who forgot to go to bed last night.

So wishing everyone a really super, dooper New Year, and here's me raising a glass to a wonderful, fulfilling and rewarding 2010 for you all. May your Skywatches be beautiful, your blog entries be sparkling, and your friendships be all you wish for.

Cheers !

For more SkyWatch pictures from around the world, click here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Twilight Zone

Anyone else think the week between Christmas and New Year is just a bit odd? An anti-climatic twilight zone of "what shall we do now?"

I mean - Christmas is over. We've had roast turkey, turkey sandwiches, turkey salad and of course, the turkey curry. My work here is done.

The decorations are annoying me now - the cards looks messy, the miscellaneous bits and pieces under the tree need to find a new home in the already crammed-to-bursting point bookshelves and children's toy cupboards - and the left-over green chocolate triangles from the Quality Street sit sad and lonely as we all look at them with disdain and walk on by.

It belatedly occurs to me to wonder how much all my festive Christmas lights will add to my electricity bill and I have a momentary bah-humbug session.

The shopping malls beg for my attention and cash, but it's December 29th. Who are these people that have spare cash at this time of the month and do they need any new friends to spend money on? I'm sure I could really use $400 off a sofa or a computer - I'd just need to come with the other $1000 first!

I will just about manage to keep the decorations up until New Year's Day - whereupon I will pounce on them with fevered determination and wrap up, re-box and re-basement them all again for another 340-ish days. None of this twelfth night rubbish. The used-once-a-year Santa gravy jug and the festive platter will be consigned to darkness and all remnants of the happy holidays will disappear from sight, save the left over beers, wine and huge bag of mixed nuts which will continue to be gorged for the remainder of January.

In fact the kitchen cupboards do still harbour a weird mix of foodstuffs that seemed like a good idea at the time - "just in case". Just in case what, exactly? Just in case anyone really wanted Cranberry with Orange Infusion as a side dish to the light fruit cake and mixed pickles? I fear we have some odd menu concoctions coming up in this household this week.

Christmas is definitely pushed as a family holiday. My thoughts go out to those who either do not have, no longer have or do not wish to see family members at this time. Sometimes they are sneaky good thoughts- you lucky buggers - and other times they are empathetic thoughts because many people do not feel lucky buggers at all.

Families are a funny old bunch at the best of times. My sympathies to those who have had to suffer awful obligation-driven gatherings - and a metaphorical kick up the bum to those who should appreciate certain members of the tribe while they still can.

I have thoughtfully appreciated my own group of four - plus the addition of another lovely British family who came over to join us for mountains of turkey and too many sprouts (thanks for turning the air green, guys!) on Christmas day.

But after that, what next? We have not received any other invitations for a drink, a supper, a go-for-a-walk, nothing at all from any Canadian friends. Or should I just classify them as acquaintances after all? I re-examine these relationships perhaps too closely. Of course, they have their own families and gatherings at this time of year. And I purposefully have not extended any invitations this year, just to see what would happen.

Diddly squat. So that told me then!!

If I were still living in the UK, this in-between week would likely be back-to-back entertaining, or being entertained. Now I live in Canada, we're still working on the 'friends' front. I find it hard and lonely at times - I think we both do - and I shy away from other, albeit lovely Brits, because I think we should be making more of an effort to integrate. But at what point do you just shrug "to heck with it" and then give up by surrounding yourself in a British enclave!?

It's not that we are unimaginative, but having partners who work shifts over the holiday break sometimes thwart the more interesting or lengthy excursions we might otherwise have embarked upon. Other families we know are heading off to cottages and apartments or hot beaches this week. But at least only one of us is working silly shifts this year, and not both.

In the meantime, the ski-slopes at Sunshine Village were busy but good fun yesterday, and who can pop out and do that in the middle of Surrey in England? Swings and roundabouts, innit?

As you can tell, a week off work gives me too much time to ponder the big stuff. Reading all that back, you'd think I didn't like Christmas! I really do - but once it's over, I want a clear, clean start to whatever comes next.

Happy In-Between Week !

PS: the Lindt chocolate balls are still tempting me ...

Monday, December 28, 2009

My World Tuesday ...

or should that read "His" World Tuesday?!

This little fella doesn't look too perturbed by the snow, and is all fluffed up and healthy. He's an American Robin (Turdus migratorius) - who is actually a thrush - but seems to have got stuck with the robin name due to the likening to those other European fellas with the red chest.

For more MyWorld Tuesday pictures from around the world, click here

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Scenic Sunday

The pathways where I regularly walk the dogs has a bench, placed in memory of a local mum who died a few years ago. It really is a beautiful place to sit and take stock of life and stuff.

Someone has placed a large Christmas bauble on the tree beside the bench. It catches the sunlight and wobbles in the breeze but I thought it looked a little lost. If I was going to decorate the seating area, I might have gone overboard on baubles!

To see more Scenic Sunday pictures, click here.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Why do my jeans never fit on Boxing Day ?

'Tis the season to be greedy
Faa la la la la, la la la laa

Seems like twenty-four/seven of feeding
Faa la la la la, la la la laa

Too much choccie, sweets and turkey
Faa la la la la, la la la laa

Weight Watchers- again! - for new year
Fa la la la la, la la la laaaaaaaa

Now will someone please hide that bowl of Lindt chocolate balls - NOW!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Skywatch Friday - Steamy buildings

SkyWatch Friday
To see more pictures from around the world, click here ...

Cold, cold skies over downtown Calgary in December.

Photos taken late afternoon with temps at about -18 degrees.

The slightest hint of warm air hitting those cold skies makes every office building appear as if they have their own little chimney - or perhaps it's a conspiracy to send smoke signals, or maybe it's even collaborative efforts to confuse Santa ? As if the guy didn't have enough to do last night!

The setting sun was starting to reflect beautifully in the towers of glass, but it was too cold for my little fingers to hang around with the camera, waiting for the brilliant oranges ...

But this is what was going on just to my right ...

Have a wonderful Christmas everybody and
my very best wishes for a peaceful and kind 2010.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pooped ....

So I started my new job this week - five days of commuting down, and I'm mentally and physically knackered! This work lark is not for the feint-hearted.

But I have really enjoyed it.

Each day commenced with a rude alarm call at 5.30am. That's after disregarding an earlier, even ruder alarm call that my husband had set for himself at 4.30am, as he was working early shifts this week. (And that is what has led to such a long and full day for me. It's been one of those passing-ships-leave-a-message-on-the-fridge weeks. Long time since we've done that.)

So after stumbling half-asleep into shower cubicles, muddling up shower gel and hair conditioner, forgetting towels and freezing my arse off as I dripped across the bathroom, whereupon a dozy but enthusiastic dog commenced licking my wet feet, I finally woke up.

I then went downstairs to dry said soggy but lovely smelling and tangly hair and by about 6am I was throwing various foodstuffs at three different lunchbags, emptying or filling dishwashers or washing machines (ah, domestic bliss) and serving doggie biscuits to two mightily confused canines who basically just sat on the bottom stair looking at each other saying "WTF is she doing up at this time of day?"

At 6.35am, with pure military precision, I awoke two startled daughters, gently nudging them awake, giving them a little kiss and then bombarding them with 'get up and get dressed' instructions - which they had to complete but the time I had taken those two confused dogs around the block.

I couldn't possibly contemplate my day until dog bowels were emptied. Yes, maybe I have to admit to being just a little bit odd.

By the way, this is what happens to dog fur in the snow. It's delightful as they melt and de-snowball themselves all over the house.

I should add that Day One of Week One was a cool -30 degrees and didn't actually get much warmer all day. Now that is a test of Alberta commuter-suitable clothing for anyone.

Talking of suitable clothing, I should not be complaining at all - this is a sample of what my husband looked like this week! All sympathetic or piss-taking comments gratefully received. Perhaps this picture could be my caption competition this week?

Anyway - back to me. At 6.50am after circling the block, I returned to the fold to (thaw out and) bark more military orders to the two young ladies who were sitting bleary-eyed at the breakfast table, playing with unloved Rice Crispies and abandoned dry toast.

They also exchanged those glances that said "WFT are we doing up at this time of day?"

(Poor quality - drive-by)

At 7.11am precisely, I drove away from the home to set off for the big scary city, then sat in traffic jams admiring all the other lunatics embarking on this world of employment.

I skidded into my new office on Day One, three minutes late and just a little harassed. I had the good grace to look embarrassed.

I arrived home by 5.30pm. Hubby had already got home by 4pm and had walked the dogs, de-briefed the girls on their school day, and failed to provide me with my evening dinner.
Two out of three ain't bad.

Day Two to Five - rinse and repeat - with me leaving a few minutes earlier each day so that by Friday I had the manoeuvres down to a fine art.

My children were in as much shock as me. Firstly, they were having to get up half an hour earlier than usual because mummy had got a new job. So how, exactly, is that fair? Secondly, they had to be responsible for getting themselves on the school bus on their own, not before putting the dogs in the kitchen, turning off the lights and locking the front door.

On this occasion, one out of three ain't bad. Hello would-be burglars.

(This is not my photo - thank you Gord Pennell - but I aim to take the camera next week 'cos I have a stunning view of the city at dawn, from my new workplace. My photo will, of course, rival the above excellent pixels!)

I may comment on my workplace and the personalities in it when I am feeling more knowledgeable (and brave) but suffice to say they have been a welcoming team, with a good sense of humour and I was even taken out to lunch by my boss. So all in all, a good first week.

However, you will have noticed it is Christmas next week, and I am not ready. This employment game sure gets in the way of useful and fun stuff, like life, doesn't it?

Hubby has the next week off work so I can relish in the luxury of getting just one body out of the front door on time (just like him for the past few years!) Wonder how that will work... I'll probably be late.

Have a great week everybody.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Need I say more ...

This picture was taken 13 months ago - but the gauge in my car was exactly the same today.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

A quick trip back to the UK ...

A morning out in Kingston-upon-Thames on the Surrey/South London borders reminded me once again what great buildings there are in the UK. I am sure I pretty much took them for granted when I lived there, but having been starved of much architecture more than 100 years old, these styles and shapes just slapped me in the face.

The street market was in full swing, complete with cockney geezer flogging off cauliflowers at bargain prices.

As usual, my eye was drawn to flowers and this colourful market stall allowed me a wistful sigh at such variety plunged into a bucket.

Talking of flowers, good lord - it was December and there still so much colour and texture in the landscape and gardens. This camellia was in full bloom in my father-in-law's south London garden.

I was overcome with sheer jealousy actually - the vibrant hedges, luxurious laurels, (admittedly squelchy and sodden but oh-so-green) lawns and the sheer variety of evergreens - purple hebes in flower - sigh.

Even the modern style at Heathrow Airport's new terminal 5 was interesting to me - though one doesn't hang around with a camera when there are so many armed police officers close by, not that I think I look like a terrorist, but you never know.

A rainy day in central London is essential viewing on any trip back to the UK. The Christmas lights sparkled in the dull, cloudy afternoon light.

Stunning efforts were made to illuminate little side alleyways.

Carnaby Street was awash with love.

Oxford Street displaying a rather large ode to the new Christmas Carol film release.

Ah ha! and finally, the main reason for hitting central London anyway - a trip to the theatre. Wow, what fun - we all thoroughly enjoyed this show - a prequel, if you will, to how the "Wicked Witch of the West" got her name. Clever story with superb cast. Highly recommended.

Even the detailing in the architecture in the theatre prompted another camera outing!

I return from this one week mini-holiday delighting in the abundant space and lack of humanity in my chunk of Canada, having felt constantly rushed, pushed along and claustrophobic in southern England .

I am shivering at the prospect of going outside into my current minus 21 degree snowy landscape; dressing in several layers to shovel snow off the driveway yesterday will soon lose its appeal after the tenth time. And realising that only a few days ago I was wandering around in only a hooded fleece in 8 degrees of dull but damp easy-to-manoeuvre mild weather.

The contrast in landscape and colour is startling. The UK offers a rich, green, damp and fertile vista but under a dullness to the light of day. Alberta currently offers a bright high sky with a white snowy view, but if there is no snow, there is no other colour until May.

Hmmmmm. And that's just what it all looked like.

I can't even begin to comment on what I feel like. These trips back consolidate so much, and unsettle completely in other ways!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Skywatch Friday - A Lethbridge sunset

To see more SkyWatch pictures, click here.

I'm getting in early this week (or late depending on your point of view and time zone) and posting my SkyWatch effort today as I will have to unfasten my safety cord and leave my computer alone for a week or so. Flying solo - scary thought!

This was the sunset at Lethbridge, Alberta last Sunday evening and it had "blog" written all over it - I slammed on the brakes of the car and skidded to a halt at the side of the road, much to the amusement of my front seat passenger and fellow road users. Well, OK, they probably weren't that amused.

I then opened my friend's side window, allowing the cool Lethbridge breeze to come in and gently tousle her hair.

An alternative point of view, I suppose, might be that when I opened the window, a Force 10 gale burst through the vehicle, whipping up bags, maps and small children, and which trashed any idea of a maintaining a hairstyle for any of the occupants. People say Lethbridge is the windy city - flippin' heck - they aren't kidding.

Anyway, then I delicately leant across her, shoving my elbows in her face, just to capture these beautiful colours. She was suitably impressed with my dedication to you guys - just after fishing her hairbrush out of her bag.

Again, apols for the grainy quality - it's the point-and-shoot mini camera again - but you get the idea.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

Back in a while!